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To What End


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Rating: 4.2/5 (87 votes)
| Comments (22) | Views (74)

DoraTo What End48 hours might not seem like a lot of time, but for Michael Molinari (OneMrBean) and Chelsea Howe, it was enough to create this surprisingly evocative little piece of experimental interactive-art-meets-platforming, To What End, made for the Global Game Jam. You control purple puzzle piece leading a troop of happy, bouncy puzzle friends across a simple, idyllic little landscape with the [WASD] or [arrow] keys, which is also how you start the game incidentally. Your friends will follow you as you jump around... right up until something prevents them, and as the sun begins to sink below the horizon, you begin to realise you might have to leave some of them behind if you want to keep going, since the game ends when the day does.

But where are you really going anyway? And is it going to be worth it if you have to get there alone? That's what Chelsea and Michael are trying to make you think about, and whether they succeed is largely up to you. The visual style here is very clean and sparse, and yet surprisingly lovely at times, and the way your friends will sometimes leap and play or cuddle up to you in certain spots manages to infuse otherwise emotionless set pieces with a lot of personality. The gameplay here is exceptionally simple, but you do have decisions to make as you head towards whatever "the end" of the game is to theoretically win, which is usually the point in these sorts of things... right? Some may find it a bit patronizing, or not much of a game at all, but To What End is a tiny little experience that aims to make you think and feel about what's important in your life. Sometimes, it can be a lot simpler and a lot closer to where you begin than you might think. After all, some things are best when we get to experience them with the people we love.

Play To What End

22 Comments

inheritance.fan Author Profile Page July 3, 2012 4:06 PM

The game will not progress. It finishes loading, and whenever I press a button, the screen fades out...and returns to the title screen.

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oreilley Author Profile Page July 3, 2012 5:36 PM

No loading issues here (old vista and ie 9)very sweet game though I dont have enough time right now to fully explore the world. I feel there should be some place where you could access higher grounds due to the way you can stack everyone up and bounce...have not found it yet though.

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Deceptively simple. I agree that there should be more where you can play with the stacking of characters. It took me 2 plays to realise there actually is an end: I took too long the first time. It would have been nice if there was some sort of notification that suggests you just ran out of time. Lucky I tried it again, otherwise I would never have realised.

Nice, but slightly disappointed given OneMrBean's other games.

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Just my thoughts, no tricks or hints here just the way it made me feel - so do not read if you have not played.

It made me want to cry, for all the trying, it is just so sad, I could not find a way to change the outcome ... no matter how hard I tried to stack my mates up to come with me. What an indictment on life today.. :(

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inheritance.fan Author Profile Page July 3, 2012 8:08 PM

I refreshed and got it to work.
So there's at least 2 endings.

Go on alone.

Stay with friends.

Are there more?

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This would probably be more fun if I didn't keep getting stuck on invisible walls, even when I'm going in the right direction. It kept happening even when I was alone. :/

Not to mention having to hunt down the main website in order to even play the game.

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Melewen Author Profile Page July 3, 2012 10:17 PM

Tried three times and never got past the opening screen. Twice on Firefox, once on Chrome.

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Are you using the keyboard instead of clicking the mouse? It's a keyboard-controlled game, so you have to click on the game once to give it focus, then use the keyboard to control the main character.

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tigrita Author Profile Page July 3, 2012 10:56 PM

I'm suddenly having problems with the game after having played it earlier just fine. The game loads, I click the window to select it, press an arrow key, and the screen fades out and back in again on the title screen. Every time I press a key this happens, so I can't get past the title. Both Chrome and Firefox are doing it on my Mac. Very weird.

[I cannot reproduce this issue, though I acknowledge some are experiencing it. I'm also on a Mac and have tried multiple times in both Firefox and Chrome, but the game functions properly every time. I'll try contacting Michael about it to see if he has seen the issue before. -Jay]

[Update: Michael says he has heard of the issue before, but it must be a Flash Player version issue. Try updating to the latest version. -Jay]

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For some reason,

No matter how hard I try running, time runs out before I reach the end. Is there something I'm doing wrong?

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randomclover Author Profile Page July 4, 2012 12:16 AM

To what end will you go to get what you want...?
How long will it take to realize you already have it?

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Did anyone manage to

get the totems to stack? I got 4 on top of each other.

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Agh, it just sits at the title screen and does load, but would probably take forever to.

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And when it did load, it just takes me back to the title screen when I try to move.

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Wait, it didn't happen this time.

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Cartophile Author Profile Page July 4, 2012 3:59 PM

What a delightful treat. Here are the moments I found most heart-warming

If you travel together until the first group of wooden blocks, and wait for the end

the orange guy, and eventually the dark green one, dance around! There is joy at the sunset.

and also

the two 'lead' pieces (purple and blue) emanate hearts, and the blue one seems to dance when near the purple one.

It is also possible, especially near a ledge, to stack all the pieces into one family-tower. In this mode, if you keep jumping, the purple one can jump waaaay higher than usual (teamwork, anyone?).

No matter how you end the game, I think it's significant that the sky / background fades until it almost matches the colour of the lead purple puzzle piece, so s/he seems to disappear, just as our agency as players similarly expires.

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So, the end. Because of the timed nature of the game, I'm not sure if where I got to was the end of the game.

I got to a cliff with a gravestone on it, and there seemed like nowhere to go but to jump off.

Was that the actual ending, or could I have gotten farther if I moved a little quicker?

If that is the end, then, wow. Makes me wonder if

it was a game about character who wants to achieve some goal but has to leave friends behind on the way, or a character who's suicidal and has to choose between listening to friends who want to help, or leaving them behind on purpose so he or she can die in peace?

I'm a little tipsy from 4th of July, though, so I'm probably really, really off-base. :)

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To paraphrase a certain angry nerd, since I can't recall what episode it's from: 'what a happy game. No enemies or obstacles, you just walk from left to right.'

Another "art" "game" that fails at being either one. Pass.

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I was most touched by the end where

It's just you and the blue puzzle piece left, and you reach the two green things that resemble you. To me, it seemed significant that it was only these two that were covered in green in the end whereas the previous two groups of totems were not perfectly shaped and seemed bare and incomplete in contrast. When I started the game I was sad and reluctant to leave my friends behind but after I saw this, it made me reinterpret the meaning of the game from "how far are you willing to go and leave your friends behind?" to "how far are your friends willing to go with you?". Towards the end, I saw the blue piece as my 'best friend' or 'lover'... the one who's stuck by my side through all the ups and downs (literally) so I was quite disturbed when I found the ending when you leave it behind and go on alone. (I decided to just jump off the cliff after that.)

I think the whole course of the game (a 'day') could be viewed as a lifetime with the landscape representing life events and your relationships with the people in your life. The strength of the relationships are reflected in the amount of time you spent with them and the depth of experiences that you shared. (I don't personally agree with the last statement completely - I don't think that the strength of a relationship has to be proportionate to the amount of time spent together.)

Wow, this is the first time I've dissected a game on Jig the way I have with this one.

Apologies for the long spoiler - I didn't realise I had so much to say.

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TheMusicGirl Author Profile Page August 31, 2013 9:57 PM

What a lovely little game! I didn't quite get the emotional feelings that some others did out of this, but a sweet little game nonetheless and very artistic! After skimming the comments, I realize I had a totally different interpretation than the other commenters of this game! While the majority of what I'm reading points to...

...the characters being your friends or people you know in the journey of life and leave behind...

the entire time I felt like the others and yourself were trying to portray...

...different stages of one's own life. The stages I interpreted were toddler, child, teenager, adult, and elder (or death itself). To support my theory, as you go along the forms in the background that represent your life stages get less rudimentary and become more polished as you "go on in life" and are able to be less chaotic and simple and truly get a good understanding of yourself.

At the first "stage marker" (cluster of background representations of the characters) my toddler self was dancing around happily, simply satisfied and excited by making it this far! I couldn't get the little guy to sit still here to even fit all the pieces together! But very soon toddler got to that sign, which reminded me of parents and other adults saying you were "too young" to do simple things. So the rest of you moved on and were able to get past that invisible barrier of being too young or incompetent. Maybe the blocklike head represents that life is very simple to the littlest ones, and they haven't gotten a great grasp on everything in order to smooth things out around them.

The next two, child and teenager, were left behind in a very similar manner but not in exactly the same way. They too were stopped by a barrier, and it was their inability to jump high enough that prevented them. At the child stage you are very eager to go through life as well but have a more whole, rounded look on things (round head) and teenager stage has a sharp, pointed head to represent maybe anger or development of interests and tastes while rebelling from the norm. The only one with a sharp pointed head, and sharpness (even as a word) can be interpreted as "being sharp with someone" or not cooperating and having a prickly personality to those around them. Both stopped by the inability to reach the platforms one must reach to continue through life.

Adult seemed most obvious to me, beside teenager...stuck with you for a very long time (longest stage of one's life) and through some very prickly caves that could represent one's true struggles in life...while the steep jump seemed to be the toughest thing to conquer for toddler - teeager, as an adult one can really see the hardships of the world and is most prepared to power through them. Adult looks the most human-like because by that time a person has a very specific and clear understanding of themselves and are mature enough to picture what they are. This is where it got tricky (in game) and I could never get adult to the stage marker. I tried twice with no luck, then on the third time I glitched to almost the top of the mountain.

The last stage is elder, or maybe in the end of this game, death. Who leads these happy, obedient stages of life through the whole game? I thought perhaps that this game was supposed to be selling the idea that the character you played was living life only to basically get to the next stage. It all goes by so quickly and no matter what you do you can't keep your stages of life with you...memories fade and energy too. Your adult self seems the most familiar with elder (maybe death? but finds out it's true nature only in the end...?) and spews hearts when it's "supporting" elder. Elder climbs all these stairs it now has the ability to climb, never enjoying it's other stages of life and never stopping to achieve the goal, to get to the "top" as soon as possible...only to find out that that was a bad mistake. And a person can never go back to those stages of life, like you can't go to the left in the game. Timelines are traditionally left to right as well in the western world...and the great thing the person sped through their whole life to discover/achieve was to die. It reminded me of something my dad loves to say on my birthday, "Enjoy it, after this year you'll never be [age] again," and this felt like it reflected that to me! But that's just my interpretation! :)

Phew! That's my long interpretation of the game's message to me! It probably was supposed to have different messages for different people, but I just wanted to put in my two cents! As for the gameplay itself...

...a hole in my theory is that the game will end anyway if you stay in one stage of life...maybe it is the last guy trying to achieve something and loses friends? Also, the fact that the tones have a harmony and as you lose "pieces" you lose that harmony points to the friend idea. I agree with flip that there should be some indication of what happens if you don't go on to the end before the time runs out, that part was just confusing to me. I thought I hit something wrong or something. I thought they could have played with the mood a bit more, maybe muting the music or changing the song at that last gravestone/cliff scene. They did a good job with color, though! Liked it overall but wouldn't play again, just didn't get the emotion out of me personally.

Nice game, nice review!

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